Peter and Helen
The image of Russian spies who speak with thick accents is a throwback to Hollywood films. If you want to infiltrate a society you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb, you blend in – like Leontine and Morris Cohen. Leontine was an American, born in Massachusetts, who became a member of the Communist Party USA. She was recruited into the party by her husband Morris, a Columbia University graduate who was born in New York.
Morris worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico with other American spies, including Theodore Hall. Hall was born in New York, graduated from Harvard at 18 and went to work on the Manhattan Project at 19.
Anyway, Morris Cohen would take secret documents of the atomic bomb project from Hall to the Russian embassy in New York. When Cohen was drafted in 1942, his wife Leontine took over as courier.
After the war, the Cohens moved to Russia for four years, then resurfaced in London using the names Helen and Peter Kroger – with New Zealand passports. As part of a ring, the Cohens were able to penetrate the Royal navy. The couple had set up a radio transmitter in their basement so they could send information directly to Moscow. They were arrested in 1961 and spent the next eight years in prison.
In 1969 they were released in a prisoner exchange which included American U2 pilot, Gary Powers. The Cohens lived out the rest of their lives in Moscow and were given several awards for the espionage work.
Enjoy Johnny Rivers singing his 1966 hit song Secret Agent Man on the Ed Sullivan Show: